Student input needed for violence prevention on campus
March 25, 2022
Jennifer Larimore, the Title IX coordinator, and Ann Lawton, the Violence Prevention coordinator, are hoping to get more student input for the upcoming year to make sure that all students know the resources their offices provide.
Title IX is officially described, “This office is responsible for responding to reports of sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, and taking prompt action to stop that behavior, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects. Because we must all do our part to ensure a safe and equitable educational environment, this office regularly collaborates with other campus partners and community stakeholders,” according to the UW-River Falls website.
Larimore also added to her job description, “At a very basic level my job is to ensure that there is a way to receive information about concerns, that when we receive those types of concerns we respond appropriately, that we have a process to address the concerns, and that we have a way to provide supportive resources and supportive measures to students that are involved.”
Violence Prevention is officially described as, “an employee whose role is to plan, implement, and evaluate theory- and evidence-informed sexual and intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and stalking (sexual/intimate partner violence) prevention strategies, policies, programs, and services to support student success,” according to the UWRF student handbook.
As Lawton described, “I evaluate and plan things based around evidence-based programing and outcomes to promote healthy realtionships, to prevent sexual assult, to encourage community: anything from unhealthy relationship communication, to setting boundaries, to sexual assult, to hazing, to bystander intervention, the list goes on because there are little facets in between everything. I like to say that I’m just trying to help humans be better humans to other humans, because nobody really teaches us how to do this, especially as young adults. We are all coming from different experiences, or expectations, or understandings, or culture, as well as gender roles and expectations about what relationships do and do not look like.”
Lawton was hired to be the Violence Prevention coordinator in September of 2020, but she has experience dealing with these types of issues because of her continued work as an art therapist.
“As an art therapist, a lot of my off-campus community work has been with people involved with domestic and dating violence, sexual assult, trafficking, and other trauma-impacted populations, so that really prepared me for the work of Violence Prevention coordinator. I’m already familiar with the population, with the subject matter in way of healing and coping and responding, and then, having been an educator here in the Art Department since 2011, getting to marry that teaching component with that. So, it just makes sense to be able to do that. In a way, we’ve had to take an interesting approach since the pandemic started. Responding to needs and other things and being able to work with Jennifer, it’s a highly collaborative, encouraging environment.”
Larimore described their office's prevention work on campus as a “prevention toolbox.” Many of the things in it are: the new student training at the beginning of the year that every student is required to take, NCAA sexual assault prevention training, residence life leaders like RA and Hall Director training, bystander intervention training for Student Support Services, and showing up to many campus events like Week of Welcome, Midnight Mahyem, and Nesting Days to connect with students and have these important conversations while making art.
Just last semester, around 50-60 students used the Violence Prevention and Title IX services. Through programming and going to events and talking with students, Lawton guesses that around 500+ students have heard the important messages that she is sharing.
The offices are usually in collaboration with everyone on campus including the Campus Victim Advocate Katie Niznik.
Lairmore explained,“Katie Niznik from Turning Point is the campus victim advocate, so the university contracts with Turning Point. We have a memorandum of understanding with them to make sure that victim advocacy services are provided to students here on campus, so that's really important for a couple of reasons. First, Katie is not a UWRF employee, so she doesn’t share information with the university in any way really. That is important because this is a truly confidential resource for students to go to if they ever have any concerns relating to sexual assult or intimate partner violence or domestic violence, so anything along those lines. Katie knows our internal university process, but more importantly you know if somebody is coming to us because they have had a certain lived experience, it's not just their university courses or their university experience, but their whole life that has been impacted and Katie is in a position to assist students with that, whether that is in the terms of safety planning, in terms of if the student wants to report to law enforcement, in terms of accessing resources outside of UWRF or outside of our community. Katie is an excellent resource for that.”
Niznik and Lawton as well as individuals in student health services are all confidential employees. They can not report specific names. They might report specific incidents but can’t say who was involved. University employees and student workers are mandated reporters. These people have to report names and incidents.
“Turning point has always been an incredible resource, and we are lucky to have them as a service for our students. I wish more students knew about Katie and her role and sought her out because she is such an excellent resource for them. I would love to hear ideas on what students want and what would be effective for students in terms of learning more about the work that Katie does,” Larimore stated.
One thing that the office is really going to focus on is their Reclaim the Red campaign. This campaign is based off of the red zone statistic. The red zone is the period of time between August and November when the rate of sexual assults committed against college students increase sharply. Over 50% of assaults happen during this period of time. This has become more of a concern recently as many institutions were predicting a double red zone.
Lawton explained, “Leading up to fall of 2021 there was research and institutions predicting a double red zone because this was the first fully in-person semester that all schools across the nation are experiencing, and they predicted higher rates of violence, and they were right.”
The Title IX and Violence Prevention Offices are very student-oriented and want to have campaigns and resources that will benefit the most students. That's why Lawton has been to multiple SGA meetings as well as visiting many different student organization groups.
“Talking to student groups and asking what they want to see is how we move forward. Our students are motivated, determined, and they are getting things done,” Lawton said.
Larimore described many questions that both offices want answers to in order to move forward with programming and make it programming that the students want and will benefit from the most: “I would like to hear what students want, like what would be an effective touchpoint for students that first year, that second year, that third year, that fourth year, and beyond? What is it that students want? What would be useful for them? What resources are really needed from a support aspect? What education focuses on? What touchpoints do they like? Are the events like Midnight Mayhem successful? What are other events they would like to see? What about the students that didn’t go? What about our commuter students? How can we be strategic in terms of touchpoints?”
Ultimately, where the offices go from here is up to the students. As Lawton stated, “If we want to be a student sensate institution, we need to trust students to make decisions with us, and so that's what I love about this work.”